Securing Iraq’s Borders

By Nicole Dalrymplen

Iraqi Border Checkpoint in Winter.

Photo by Nicole Dalrymplen U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / DoD Photo

MOSUL, Iraq (USACE) — Securing Iraq’s borders is a focus for both Iraqi and Multinational forces. Together, Iraqi Border Police and Coalition Forces patrol the borders deterring the illegal crossing of insurgents into Iraq. An estimated $25 million is being spent to construct 100 new border forts along the northern borders of Iraq, as well as rehabilitate and enhance numerous points of entry. Currently, in several northern provinces, 34 forts are under construction and 66 others are planned to start in the coming months.

“The Iraqi Interim Government understands the importance of having secure borders,” said Lt. Col. Paul Hastings, spokesman for Task Force Olympia. TF Olympia serves as the command and control element for coalition forces in the two northern governorates of Iraq—Ninewa and Dahok. “They are demonstrating commitment and resolve to secure the borders for the Iraqi people.”

Controlling the borders is a primary tenet of Iraq’s internal security plan, explained Carol Hewes, program manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Northern District’s Security and Justice Sector. “The border forts provide a base of operation for the border police, who act as the eyes in remote areas away from the central points of entry. The points of entry are similar to our border crossings in the States. They provide a staging area for all pedestrian and vehicular traffic entering and exiting Iraq.”

The 133 Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy) is overseeing the renovations of 27 existing forts and the construction of 15 new ones, while the Corps is providing construction management and quality control for the 100 new forts and the points of entry. Work is ongoing in four northern provinces.

“Renovations will take approximately two to three months and new forts will take about six,” explained Capt. Dave Bouffard, battalion civil engineer for the 133 ECB(H). “The forts are being constructed using a concrete masonry process that maximizes the use of locally available materials. All construction is being done by local Iraqis. No Coalition Forces are participating in the actual construction.”

“The forts function as the Iraqi border patrol’s command outpost from which they run 24-7 operations,” explained Bouffard. “All forts include living quarters and office space, as well as independent life support sources for water, fuel, power generation and sewer.”

Over $2 million is being spent to upgrade and renovate existing border points of entry. The upgrades include vehicle staging and inspection areas, seizure and storage areas, a banking facility for currency exchange, guard posts, a customs facility and an immigration facility.

“We know how important it is to prevent foreigners from coming into Iraq,” said Wilson Myers, Project and Contracting Office representative for Iraq’s northern governorates – Dahok, Irbil and Ninewa. PCO is the contracting agency for distribution of the construction funds. “We are focused on properly equipping and manning the force in order to protect freedom for a sovereign Iraq.”

The new forts will provide additional capabilities and staging areas for the Iraqi security forces. While most Iraqis will never see a fort, due to its remote location, there are direct benefits to the Iraqi people, according to Hewes.

“You hear about the insurgents in Mosul and around the country,” she said. “I think if we can continue to take steps to keep them out of Iraq that has a significant impact on people’s lives and their security. The border forts are the front line defense for Iraq. The border police are cutting down on the number of insurgents and weapons entering the country and that’s significant.”